Delta’s Pilot Union Expects Furloughs From October 1st

Some reports are indicating that Delta’s pilot union told its members this weekend that on October 1st, newer pilots should anticipate furloughs. This news comes as airlines seek a way out of the crisis with federal support for employee salaries set to end on September 30th. At the same time, some Delta pilots have told Simple Flying that no such memo has been received.

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Delta may have to furlough up to 2,500 pilots. Photo: Getty Images

Delta reportedly tells its pilots to expect furloughs

According to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) memo, any pilot hired after December 1st, 2016, should expect a furlough status. The association believes up to 2,500 pilots may be affected. Moreover, it advised its members to take another job if it is available:

For its part, Delta has not confirmed any furloughs yet. However, it would not be shocking to see the airline announcing this action for its pilots in the coming months. Competitor United Airlines has been more vocal about the potential for job losses or furloughs once federal funding runs out.

Partial distribution?

There seems to be some confusion on the distribution of the memo. One pilot working for Delta has informed Simple Flying that no such memo has been received. However, when seeking comment from Delta Air Lines, there was no denial, with the carrier stating that they are continuing to work with ALPA on the subject.

“We are looking at all options to mitigate or minimize furloughs and will continue working with ALPA in the coming weeks to explore those options.” -Delta Air Lines spokesperson

Tracy Rucinski, an aviation correspondent for Reuters, had commented that the memo at the heart of the matter is from a local council. Therefore, it seems likely that not all ALPA union members have received this correspondence.

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Delta has previously anticipated hiring and training over 1,000 new pilots this year. Photo: Delta Air Lines

This would be a tough spot for pilots. For the last few years, the airline industry appeared to be at one of its strongest points in history. Airlines were ordering hundreds of new planes each year, adding new cities to their route maps. It’s hard to believe that there were even concerns about the potential for a pilot shortage.

The situation has taken a 180-degree turn. Airlines have too many pilots, and in the process of downsizing and reaching healthy capacity, it may take a few years before carriers hire new pilots. The one place where pilots may be in demand, however, are cargo airlines although this is not a guarantee. Furthermore, cargo airlines do not operate some popular aircraft like Airbus A320s.

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Delta is a major Airbus operator in the US. Photo: Getty Images

Could furloughs be avoided?

There are other measures Delta could take to avoid furloughs. Although those measures are also not very attractive for airlines and pilots. Widespread pay cuts and incentives for voluntary unpaid leave are some of the other options Delta could trigger.

There is still time for Delta to come up with plans to avoid involuntary furloughs. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Another way that these jobs could be saved is through another round of government funding. However, this seems more unlikely as plenty of sectors and industries will also need federal assistance. Plus, the government has already provided a hefty sum of $50 billion in funding for airlines.

While passenger numbers have been on the uptick, bookings remain low. And, given the volatility of the situation, Delta may have to cancel additional flights and process more refunds.

What is the situation at Delta?

In the first quarter of 2020, the airline lost over $500 million. It does not appear that the second (or maybe even the third) quarter will be any better. Delta has engaged in cost-cutting measures, trimmed capacity, and is streamlining its fleet with 777 and MD80/90 retirements. However, with those aircraft retirements, Delta may end up with too many staff.

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The young but small Delta Boeing 777 fleet is on its way out. Photo: Getty Images

Based on the airline’s fleet plans, it does not appear that Delta expects the industry to recover anytime soon. New aircraft deliveries have been deferred leaving outgoing jets like the 777s without a full replacement. ALPA also noted that it could take up to 24 months before the Atlanta-based carrier starts hiring pilots again. And at that point, expect the airline to be smaller than it is today.

Do you think Delta will have to furlough pilots? Are you potentially affected by these furloughs? Let us know in the comments!